Health and care professionals urged to help remove embarrassment over older people’s care

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elderly careHealth and social care professionals could play a vital role in helping older people to overcome embarrassment around their care needs, a new study has shown.

The research by YouGov for care and support provider Centra, part of not-for-profit Circle Housing, found that three out of five (60%) over-65s who don’t already receive support would be too embarrassed to bring up their care needs with either their GP or a friend or family member.

Instead, 41% said they would wait for their GP to bring up the subject first and consider getting support once they recommended it. A fifth (20%) said they would wait for a medical or social care professional, such as an occupational therapist or pharmacist, to recommend care before getting help.

Embarrassing Bodies host and practicing GP Dr Dawn Harper is backing a new campaign to help medical and social care professionals’ advise individuals and their families about care designed to protect older people’s independence for longer, such as telecare technology.

Dr Dawn Harper has teamed up with TV presenter Ruth Langsford to front a series of new online films that aims to showcase the wide range of support available to protect independence and encourage more open discussion around care.

Dr Dawn Harper said: “I’m working with Centra Pulse to help remove the embarrassment that still exists around care.  This research proves that many older people are reluctant to speak with their GP or families about their care needs and I find the same situation playing out in my surgery every day. I speak to many relatives who are worried about their parents but just don’t know how to broach the subject of care.”

“It’s important that we’re all aware of the variety of help available to those who want to continue living independently so we can start to break the stigma. I always advise families to take advantage of support like telecare which involves minimal disruption to the user’s life but ensures their family has total peace of mind.”

More than 6,000 people were surveyed by Centra Pulse including over 2,000 over-65s and more than 2,000 adults with a parent aged over 65.

Wendy Darling, Managing Director of Centra Pulse says: “This shows that many people are too embarrassed to talk about care with their GP or families. Many could be leaving it too late to get the right help for themselves or a loved one if they wait for problems to begin before addressing the subject. It is only by starting those conversations that we can start to take away the stigma that exists and encourage more people to open up about their needs and preferences.

“Older people say they fear they will be thought of as a burden or incapable when they start to suffer problems at home so find it difficult to open up to those closest to them. Health and social care professionals can play a key role by signposting patients and families to tools that will help, including personal alarms. Telecare services are helping thousands to stay independent at home by protecting their safety and lessening the burden on those around them.”

A quarter (24%) of Britons would only talk with an older relative about their care after they had already started suffering problems such as a fall or illness, Centra Pulse’s research also found. Nearly one in 10 (9%) said they were too embarrassed themselves to discuss the subject with an older relative. A fifth of those with older parents who already receive care (21%) said there relatives were still too embarrassed to discuss their needs and had hidden problems from them.

Ruth Langsford said: “I’ve become more concerned about my mum’s care needs as she grows older and often feel our parent-child relationship has switched as a result. My mum is a very independent 84-year-old but I’m sure she has worried about how she would cope if she was alone and fell ill in the night. The problem is she won’t voice her concerns to either her family or her doctor. She once admitted sitting with my father all night after he had a fall until she could get help from a neighbour because she didn’t want to worry us.”

“She now has a personal telecare alarm which is helping her remain at home. It has given us reassurance that she can get help quickly if needed. It did take a lot of time and effort as a family to talk to mum about her care needs and persuade her to get some more support. You can’t talk to your parents as if they’re children and I’ve had to be careful how I’ve approached the subject of her care. She still gets cross with me and tells me to stop talking to her like she’s a child.”

Visit www.Centrapulse.org.uk/difficultconversations to find out more from Ruth and Dawn.

More than 125,000 Centra Pulse customers including more than 85,000 over-65s already use telecare technology, which includes personal alarms, fall detector sensors and out of the home GPS devices, to stay living more independently.

Centra Pulse is part of not-for-profit group Circle Housing

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